Facebook Announces It’s Finally Going To Translate Their Site

I just happened to stumble over to the Facebook What’s New page and noticed the following:

Screenshot from Facebook's What's New page announcing that they're going to translate the site

Frickin finally!  I was expecting this.

I knew that if Facebook really wanted to turn another corner and gain better traction with a world audience they’d have to translate (localize) their site for different languages and regions of the world.  I’m sure this will cause a BIG bump in traffic.

It will be interesting to see how they integrate this with the platform.

Find Washington DC Metro Times via SMS

Metro Times Screenshot

Washington DC programming rockstar Zvi Band has just launched a cool new Web app called Metro Times. It allows you to send a text message (SMS) with the name of a metro station to an address and it will send back to you the times of the upcoming trains. It’s awesome.

What’d make this app even better is if it were a mobile web app and not just for SMS.

This site provides essentially the same content as the iPhone Web app Meenster. Metro Times is great for those who are iPhone-less.

Solving Problems – Another Lesson from Startup Weekend DC

Another one of the lessons I learned from my day at Startup Weekend DC is that if you’re going to create an app or do a startup it should be about solving a problem or filling a need it shouldn’t be about creating something for the sake of creating something.

We make things not because it’d be cool… but for our users.  It’s our job… it’s our responsibility if we want to be successful entrepreneurs that we have to understand people.  We have to understand people’s problems.  We have to understand the technology and how it can be used, morphed, and manipulated to meet people’s needs.

I have to constantly be asking myself… why is someone going to be using this product?  Why will they care?  How does this help them?

It’s easy to answer the who, what, when, and where but what about the the so what.

It’s easy for me to get myself stuck in my alpha geek technology never leave my computer bubble.  I’m glad that I have friends who’ll slap me upside my head when that happens.  It’s crucial that I’m out there and forming relationships and listening ot people.

Having the Right Team – A Lesson From Startup Weekend DC

I have complete and utter respect for the folks that organized and sponsored Startup Weekend DC but I have to say though that it’s just not for me. I went the first night and that was enough for me.

The premise of Startup Weekend is that a bunch of smart people get together and over the course of a weekend conceptualize a Web app, create it, and then form a business around it. For this weekend that meant 50 to 70 of Washington DC’s brightest minds in the Web industry.

But… when there is no clear leader, you have to get consensus among people who haven’t worked together before, and you have to do it in a weekend, you go a little crazy or you have to be a little crazy.

I guess for me it reenforces the idea that if you’re going to do a startup, you need to have a solid team. You need a team that you trust. You need a team that you’re going to work well with. You can’t be worrying about people’s personalities or people’s motivations. You have to be able to sit down and get stuff done together.

Every team has a good leader. The leader has a clear vision. He doesn’t lead by being high and mighty. He leads by getting his hands dirty… by setting the example.

I have massive respect for all of the startups out there who are able to do the startup thing successfully. You guys rock.

Best wishes to the Startup Weekend DC crew. I’m happy to be a beta tester of Hola Neighbor and you know i’ll blog my thoughts. 😉

More thoughts on startups and Startup Weekend DC soon.

The Information Capture Problem – Why Most Review Sites Don’t Work For Me

On Tuesday, I wrote about how I wanna find new restaurants.  I know there are local review sites like Yelp that are out there but they just don’t seem to work for me.  I call this the information capture problem.

Let’s say you went out on some hot date to a restaurant you’d never been to before.  You and your date had a great time.  You get home.  Are you really thinking to yourself, “Oh I need to write a review of the restaurant i just visited.”  No, you’re not thinking that.

Another scenario… you have all of your friends over to watch a movie.  It was a pretty dull movie.  Is your first thought that you need to sign on to Netflix so that you can tell them what you thought of the movie?  No.  By the time I would remember,  I would have forgotten most of my really deep impressions.

Maybe another night I took a bottle of wine over to my friend’s house.  It was a great bottle of wine.  I was able to really pick out a lot of the interesting aspects of the wine.   Am I going to remember all of those thoughts and tasting notes so that I can enter them into Cork’d tonight?  Nope.

We fundamentally need to go about capturing information in a different way or at a different point in the process.

For the movie scenario, Netflix should do a deal with the people who make the set top boxes so that you could enter your movie ratings right on the screen.  There could be a buttons for 1 through 5 stars right on the remote.

Is possible for the user’s action itself to be the review that gets captured?  For example, when you bookmark something on del.icio.us, you’re saving a site so that you can remember it for later.  Bookmarking a web site is also an implicit sign of endorsement (positive or negative) and is data that I’m sure Yahoo uses for its search results rankings.

In conclusion, all of these review sites are great.  They are trying to solve a problem that needs to be solved.  There is too much stuff out there and I need to know what’s crap and what’s not.   It’s just that I don’t run around with my laptop attached to my hip so I can’t jump on your web site at the drop of a hat to tell you my deepest thoughts on a product when I want to.

Maybe mobile is the answer… more later.

I need to find good new restaurants

Tonight i was walking through Dupont Circle to meet up with folks at Brickskellers for Copynight DC and tasty beers. On my way there I was passing all these restaurants that I had never been to. I realized how much I go to the same place over and over and over again.

There should be a site where my friends and I can easily say what restaurants we go to and then tell each other which ones we’ve tried. That’s Yelp right?

But I want more… I want something that helps me to discover new restaurants. We need an equivalent of what Pandora does for music but for eating and restaurants.

Busy Week for the DC Tech Community

This is another week where there are a lot of great events going on for the Washington DC Tech community.  These are the ones I’m going to be at.

Copynight DC – Tuesday Oct 23rd

On Tuesday, there is Copynight DC which is hosted by Joseph Price. This month, while drinking beers at Brickskellers, a cadre of folks will discuss the current issues related to the state of online music. I’m confident it’ll be a good time.

Next DC Happy Hour – Thursday Oct 25th

Next DC Founder Moses McCall is throwing another Happy Hour at the Science Club up in NW.

DC Startup Weekend – Oct 26th-28th

Startup Weekend, an idea formed in Colorado, is where you get a group of talented folks together in one place and over the course of the weekend develop a Web app from concept to production and you form a company around it.

Well this weekend, it’s in Washington DC.  It sound be nuts. :-p

How Much Are The Conference Lobby Conversations Worth?

I was really pleased to see on John Battelle’s blog that the video from O’Reilly Media and CMP’s recent Web 2.0 Summit was now available online. I wasn’t able to make it.  I think the tickets are $2k+ each.  That’s just too much, even if someone else was paying.
So… I can now watch John Battelle’s interviews with technology pioneers like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Ballmer.  This is cool.

But what if I did go to the conference? With the speaker videos available online, it’d have to be for the people i’d meet and for the conversations that I’d have.  But seriously… how much are those worth?$2k?

You can go to a BarCamp event, they’re free, and you’ll meet folks who are just as innovative and imaginative

Preliminary SXSW Interactive Panel List Announced

I’m really excited because this upcoming March (in 2008) will be the first time I go to the South by Southwest Interactive conference (SXSW). 🙂  I just noticed that they announced a preliminary list of some of the panels that were selected.  Some of the panels that look interesting are:

  • Building Portable Social Networks (Jeremy Keith)
  • The Elephant Online: Digitally Expanding Information Memory (Joshua Schachter)
  • Scalability Boot Camp (Jakobj Heuser)
  • Self Replicating Awesomeness: The Marketing of No Marketing (Brian Oberkirch)

Are you going to SXSW?  If so, what panels are you excited about seeing?

(Thanks to Brian for pointing out the programming announcement)

Let Your Users Share Their Activity On Your Web App Via Facebook

It seems like Facebook is all that marketers talk about these days. Ever since Facebook launched their platform, people have been trying to figure out what the secret equation is to make an application that will extend their brand. I don’t know about you but I can’t take any more poking, slapping, shooting, beer passing, zombie biting applications.

The Facebook apps have that been my favorites are the ones that allow me to share my activity from other Web apps into Facebook and over the social graph. For example, I love the Pandora Facebook App. It allows my friends to see what Pandora radio stations I have created and I can see theirs.

Pandora's Facebook App

Other apps that do this within Facebook are Upcoming for events, WordPress with blog posts, Twitter with status updates, del.icio.us with bookmarks, Digg with dugg news stories, and many more.

A users activity inside of your applications is very silo’d. No one else gets to see it. But you really do want a users to be able to show their friends what they’re doing with you’re applications. That way things can be more viral.

You want the first user to go about his/her business with your Web app. Within Facebook, people will see what they’re doing with your app. Hopefully your user’s friends will start using it and their friends will start using it.  You’ll be sharing your content without having to actually share it explicitly.
The Web is so big. People want to be able to use their friends as a filter for what they should and shouldn’t check out in life in and out of the Web. Why not provide them with the most information possible?